WestJet doubles down on cargo, insources domestic sales ops as international network grows

On Oct. 1, Calgary-headquartered WestJet Cargo will begin transitioning domestic cargo sales ops to a newly established in-house sales team. Previously, domestic and Canadian export sales were handled through a GSA partner.  

Growth of the internal cargo team follows WestJet’s January decision to increase the visibility and expectations of its cargo division by bringing it under the “commercial” umbrella. Until last year, WestJet Cargo was part of the carrier’s “operations” unit. The move was made in parallel with the delivery of the carrier’s first three of ten 787-9 aircraft it has on order with Boeing. WestJet will continue to rely on its GSA partners for international sales in Europe and elsewhere.  

Although WestJet has deep roots in cargo that have historically centered around a large fleet of narrowbody and regional aircraft, comprising of 119 737s and 47 Q-400 turboprops with just a few 767-300s, the 787s chart a course for the carrier’s further international expansion. 

“As we look forward to the growth of our widebody network, we are going to be expanding our footprint internationally,” Tim Croyle, VP & GM WestJet Vacations and Cargo, told Air Cargo World. With a cavernous bellyhold, cargo has a greater potential to contribute more revenue per flight compared to WestJet’s narrowbody fleet. Insourcing the sales team was a logical step as WestJet looks to increase oversight and insights into its cargo business, Croyle said.  

Unlike WestJet’s narrowbody aircraft, the 787s boasts a temperature-controlled section in the lower hold and can accommodate containerized freight. With the first three 787s now in service, the carrier is seeing a wider variety of commodities moving across its network. The new aircraft “have really allowed us to take a different place in cargo as it is all palletized,” said Croyle. “We’re now getting a lot of the perishables and live animals,” he added.  

The widebody trio currently operates out of Calgary (YYC) and are utilized for flights to Europe, and for daily flight between YYC and Toronto (YYZ), which facilitates transit cargo. Next year WestJet will take delivery of three more 787-s, with four more to follow in 2021. “We then have another 10 options that we can exercise with Boeing, that we’ll decide on later on,” said Croyle.  

Apart from equipment and a stronger sales force, Croyle expects cargo to benefit from the airline’s broader partnerships which could boost interline volumes moving through WestJet’s network. WestJet has already entered into a joint venture with Delta. “Once that is approved, that will open up some opportunities on the cargo side,” said Croyle. “We are also in early discussions with Air France-KLM for pursuing a trans-Atlantic joint venture.”  

WestJet operates 23 cargo bases in Canada and 21 cargo stations across the United States, Europe and the Caribbean 

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